Kampusch captivity shown with heartrending reality

On March 2 1998, ten-year-old Natascha Kampusch was snatched from a Vienna street on her way to school and bundled into a white van. Based on her autobiography by the same name, 3,096 Days harrowingly visualises Kampusch’s experiences – what exactly happened on the day of her abduction, her eight-year-long imprisonment in a five-square-metre dungeon, and the mental and physical torment she suffered at the hands of her abductor.


3,096 Days opens in the Austrian Alps, shortly before Kampusch’s (Campbell-Hughes) escape. We learn that her kidnapper – the sexually deviant communications engineer Wolfgang Priklopil (Lindhardt) – has become so nonchalant regarding her captivity that he feels confident enough to take her on a skiing trip. “It was clear from the start that only one person would survive and it was going to be me, not him,” Kampusch tells us in a voiceover, before the action flashes back to the day her ordeal began.


While the film doesn’t shy away from graphically depicting the violence and sexual abuse that took place, director Hormann deftly avoids over-dramatisation or emotional duress, and instead opts to present proceedings factually, mirroring the same clinical precision displayed by Priklopil and allowing for an unmitigated portrayal of psychological dehumanisation. Natascha is starved as punishment for her non-compliance, deprived of daylight and contact with the outside world, and is psychologically unravelled as Priklopil dominates her behaviour.


Campbell-Hughes and Pidgeon offer outstanding performances as the elder and younger Kampusch, respectively, while Lindhardt’s character is endowed with the required level of backstory to make him more than simply a monster. We are afforded glimpses into his life – his coddling mother, his arrested development – and while this adds a fascinating layer to his relationship with his victim, it also clouds and complicates the brutality he dishes out. 3,096 Days is certainly not an easy watch, and when Kampusch finally does manage to escape, it feels more like a mercy killing than a happy ending. Amidst the depravity and suffering, the film’s depiction of Kampusch’s ordeal is a testament to the human instinct to survive and prevail, even when faced with the gravest of circumstances.


3,096 Days (15)

Dir: Sherry Hormann; Ger drama, 2013, 111 mins; Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Thure Lindhardt, Amelia Pidgeon, Trine Dyrholm
Premiered July 25
Playing nationwide